An Antidote to Cynicism

I’ve been reading the Psalms (in the Bible) and I came across Psalm 73. It was good for my soul.

Psalm 73

A psalm of Asaph.

Surely God is good to Israel,
    to those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
    I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

They have no struggles;
    their bodies are healthy and strong.[a]
They are free from common human burdens;
    they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity[b];
    their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
    with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
    and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
    and drink up waters in abundance.[c]
11 They say, “How would God know?
    Does the Most High know anything?”

12 This is what the wicked are like—
    always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
    and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
    and every morning brings new punishments.

15 If I had spoken out like that,
    I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
    it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
    then I understood their final destiny.

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
    you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
    completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
    when you arise, Lord,
    you will despise them as fantasies.

21 When my heart was grieved
    and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

27 Those who are far from you will perish;
    you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
    I will tell of all your deeds.

Purveyors of Outrage

I cleaned up my Facebook feed this week.

I hid all posts from Conservative Daily, Tea Party, Heritage Foundation, The Blaze, etc.These entities sell outrage for our consumption. I hide liberal pages as well. I am tired of being yanked around by half truths.

I have my circular file at the door ready for most political advertisements.

I gave up watching or listening to Fox News, CNN, and the Today Show, among others, in 2013. All the shouting is evidence that they want the listener to share in the outrage. Ugh.

This is what God wants to see evidenced in our lives:

“5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Phillipians 4:5

Shouting is not compatible with gentleness.

The Lord is near. Think about that.

These websites and TV stations also try to raise the flight/fight response. By sharing these posts, we participate in raising the level of anxiety in each other.

The very next verses are instructive.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.

We don’t get to make politics the exception. “In every situation.”

It’s the mean season in politics. Don’t participate.

Outrage is for sale. I not buying. Not even in the market.

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Cynicism – the Easy Way Out

At its heart, cynicism is the easy way out.

Cynicism allows us to make snap judgments because we have decided in advance that certain people, certain groups, are not only not to be trusted, but they have nothing to say that might be reasonable.

Cynicism saves time. Cynics don’t need to spend time thinking about the merits of other viewpoints. Their minds are already made up.

Cynics don’t have to take the risk their opponents might have some good motives, though perhaps misguided.

Cynics don’t have to think too hard. Their tools for dismissing the thoughts of others are always conveniently at the ready. Press secretaries, celebrities, and politicians all have “talking points.” This is how we descend into using The Big Lie. The Big Lie was a propaganda technique used by Hitler. We are inundated with Big Lies in this media saturated world.

A few weeks back, a friend of mine quoted Joshua Storment on his Facebook page. It made me think about how easy it is be a cynic.

        “It is interesting that in the Bible, the idea for cynicism is something like a “scoffer.” They are the fool. This is not what we normally associate with cynics. Cynics, in our world, are more likely to be seen as the only ones who aren’t fools. The person who is able to quickly deconstruct is the wisest in the room, and maybe they are…but not if they don’t know what they don’t know.
Cynicism makes the subtle leap from maybe to certainty, from some to all. People can’t be trusted, bankers do it for money, politicians do it for power, and God is just a word people use to feel better about death, impose their will on others, or get their Aunt Betty to die without freaking out.
Cynicism is so toxic, because it tends to presents itself as wisdom. The Bible calls it what it is…foolish.” Jonathan Storment. (Read more of his work here: http://jonathanstorment.com/)

The sentence about stereotyping – bankers do it for the money, politicians do it for the power….So easy just to plug people into their slots. No sense in getting to know the heart of a politician, or listen to why someone could be a Christian feminist.

Cynicism allows us to smear those with opposing views with a broad brush. All Pro lifers are smeared with of the killing of abortion clinic workers. Those who support choice are smeared with the dirty abortion clinic shut down in Muskegon County last year.

We are in the midst of the season that germinated this blog – the run up to an election. I started writing this blog in response to the cynical lies generated by both sides during the 2012 election. It wore me out, made me feel sick.

As a byproduct or maybe the product, the lies multiply in all forms of media during election season. For the sake of power, all manner of cynical lies are passed off as truth. Passing legislation in the U.S. is sort of like making sausage. A little bit of this, a little bit of that is added to each major piece of legislation. So the Affordable Health Care Act ballooned to thousands of pages. So did the Americans with Disabilities Acts. This is how the pork is obtained for each legislator’s home districts. A grant for researching the lives of spiders is inserted into law, a new bridge is funded, a new tax deduction is added for chicken farmers, etc. So Justin Amash is accused of refusing to vote against gender based abortion, when he may have been voting against new taxes or the exorbitant cost of a new military helicopter. He is a libertarian after all. Brian Ellis is accused of foolish spending when he served on the East Grand Rapids School Board, when he really was doing what he thought was best for the students of that district. As voters, we need to consider the record as a whole, not just one small part, or even one mistake. What is the overwhelming pattern in our representative’s work.

When I read Joshua Storment’s words, I realized that cynicism is not only easy, it’s lazy.

In some ways, it is the opposite of Love. Love takes work, thought, patience. Love takes risks. Jesus calls on us to love our enemies and pray for those who spitefully oppose us.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (I Corinthians 13:4-6, from the Bible, New International Version)

 

 

Echoes of An Angel

Echoes of an Angel is the story of Ben Underwood, a young man who lost his eyesight due to retinal cancer and then learned to find his way around in the world using human echolocation. (Echolocation is sending out sound (clicking) and listening to the echo to find objects) Due to echolocation, Ben could ride a bike, roller blade, and get himself around without the aid of a cane, among many other amazing feats. He became world famous and made appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Today Show, and was invited to speak around the world.

Ben was also remarkable for his positive attitude and faith in Christ.

Just as remarkable in my opinion is story of his mother, Aquanetta Gordon and her journey in raising her “handicapped” son.

The Lord spoke three things to Aquanetta on the morning three-year-old Ben underwent surgery to have his second eye removed due to retinal cancer, rendering him completely blind.

  • Ben will live and not die
  • Ben will see again
  • And this isn’t for you

Aquanetta’s story demonstrates how these words played out in her life. Ben did live through the surgery. Despite total, irreversible blindness, the degree to which he was able to see, both spiritually and physically, was amazing. And she felt that the gift that was Ben was not for her benefit, but  to all of those who knew him, and to the glory of God.

I was interested in this book because I also have raised children with special needs. Aquanetta’s goal for Ben was to raise him to be as independent as possible.  She didn’t want him to be handicapped by his condition. She expected just as much from him as from her other children. And while she gladly worked with his therapists, teachers, and schools, she also let them know when they overstepped their bounds. She was a very good advocate for Ben.

This book provides an unblinking look at Aquanetta’s troubled past, as well as the difficulties of dealing with retinal cancer and the blindness that followed. Aquanetta tells us about her tears, her fears, and frustrations; but also about the ways that God worked in her life and Ben’s life. God used many people to encourage her, Ben being one of the biggest encouragers.

I enjoyed this book and recommend it.

***(I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale Momentum in exchange for my review).

 

 

 

 

 

D-Day

“When you find yourself getting cynical, think of these men.”
President Barack Obama, Normandy, France. June 6, 2014.

I woke up this morning to these words at about 5:00 a.m.

Instead of their normal morning news, Fox 17 in Grand Rapids chose to broadcast the President’s speech in Normandy, France, this morning at the 70th anniversary of D-day. A good choice in my opinion.

He called them liberators. They gave everything so that we could be free.

Never forget.

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A Summer Without The News?

Seems radical, doesn’t it?

When I was in college, one of my roommates never watched the news. She said it was too stressful and interfered with her sleep. That just didn’t make sense to me 30 years ago. How could you go about your life without knowing “what was going on? ” I couldn’t imagine myself being that ill informed. It makes sense now, though.

I started this blog in an effort to reduce the cynicism in my life. I realized it was a downward  drag on my life, and made me a bad influence on those around me. During the 2012 election, the cynical, lying ads from all sides of the political spectrum made me sick. So I decided that I was going on a journey – away from cynicism.

One way to combat cynicism is to control what goes into your mind. So, I stopped watching all cable TV news (which is generally an advertisement for one side or the other). Now when I turn on Fox News or CNN, I feel assaulted by either the whining or the shouting and turn it off after five minutes. Ugh. I still watch the local news, especially in the morning when it is “lighter.”

My friend posted a blog about giving up all news for the summer – a sabbatical from the news, so to speak –  http://trinkaj.blogspot.com/2014/05/a-news-free-summer.html.

Could I do it? Could you?

I am thinking about following my friend’s lead.

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